Symonds shows the champions' instinct

<preform>Australia 269-6<br>Pakistan 259<br>Australia win by 10 runs</preform>
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The Independent Online

Whatever the rest do, they must avoid panic. On the other hand, it is difficult to know what more logical response might be more useful. Australia are back, and this time they mean business. Like every other time, actually.

Whatever the rest do, they must avoid panic. On the other hand, it is difficult to know what more logical response might be more useful. Australia are back, and this time they mean business. Like every other time, actually.

Australia, the best team in the world by a light year, the 11-8 runaway favourites in a field of 12 for the Champions Trophy and probably being considered by lexicographers as a modern synonym for invincible, beat Pakistan yesterday. It was an insignificant victory, albeit in a pulsating match before an animated Lord's crowd of 18,000, but that is not the point. It was a warm-up match for the Champions Trophy, a competition that Australia have never won and which begins on Friday. Any win at this stage is bound to have an effect, even on the most formidable psyches in sport.

They always had their noses in front, but there were times towards the end when Pakistan were steaming down the home straight. Australia, fuelled by self-belief and the confidence that something would happen, held on and, by taking three wickets in the 47th over, put the clinching stretch of daylight between them and the opposition.

The last time that Australia lost a one-day series of any kind was the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka when they went out in the semi-finals on what Ricky Ponting, their captain, described, as the worst one-day pitch ever prepared. Be sure that the defeat still rankles and that they are here to win. Since then they have won nine series of varying status, from the World Cup in South Africa last year to the Videocon Cup in Amsterdam last weekend.

The architect of the victory was Andrew Symonds, who scored his second one-day international century, both of them against Pakistan. Since the first dug his side out of a big hole in the World Cup, which they subsequently went on to win, this one paled by comparison. But if the circumstances were less demanding, there was still some serious excavation to be done.

Doubtless, Australia would have wished to win the toss, although one of the reasons they are as good as they are (56 wins in 70 matches under Ponting's captaincy, which makes Arsenal look slouches) is that they fancy winning from any position. It was fairly uncomfortable early on, when the ball was nipping about just enough to keep the batsmen honest and the bowlers optimistic.

Although Mohammad Sami took the two early wickets to fall, his partner Rana Naveed was equally impressive, keeping the ball up to the bat on a good line. As usual, Matthew Hayden attempted to bludgeon his way forward, but timing eluded him.

His 50 was characteristically muscular, but he had to etch it out. Although Damien Martyn chipped one to mid-on, the pitch lost some of its bite and Symonds played with gusto.

The leg-side heave and the cut were especially profitable. He orchestrated a magnificent late charge that yielded 86 in the final 10 overs, 50 in the last five. His 104 came off 103 balls.

When Pakistan were afflicted with similar early losses, and fell to 66 for 4, the smart money was on Australia. But Inzamam ul-Haq has been in dozens of similar positions. This was his 320th match. Neither he nor Yousuf Youhana (172 matches) rushed into matters. They recognised, as so many still do not when in pursuit, how many runs can be accrued on the latter stages on a good pitch with wickets in hand. They took on Australia at their own game.

Perhaps it was possible to see already the fruits of hiring Bob Woolmer as coach. Woolmer has conveyed some far-fetched ideas, but he knows the simple things come first and he has been round the block to know what works.

If these two had stayed together, Pakistan would have won. But Inzamam miscued, and then came chaos. With his first ball, Mike Kasprowicz had Yousuf caught in the deep. Abdur Razzaq responded by hitting a six, Kaprowicz then caught and bowled him off a fearsome drive and Ponting effected a marvellous run-out. Australia were home by 10 runs with 10 balls left, and you had better believe that the Champions Trophy is firmly in their sights.

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